Carload of caring: Community organizes duffle-bag project for Williams Co. foster kids

Twenty-four foster children in Williams County now have something most kids take for granted – their own duffle bags filled with personal items – thanks to the efforts of a small Lutheran church, Thrivent Financial and a Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota employee.

This kind-hearted group recently sent a carload of 24 duffle bags – each containing a fleece blanket, water bottle, bath towel, wash cloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb and stuffed animal – to provide comfort and care to 24 foster children in Williams County, including those who live at Haven House in Williston.

The idea began when Jean Quigley, Church Relations Specialist at LSSND, spoke to the women’s group at Evanger Lutheran Church, Kenmare. Quigley talked about the fact that Williams County has more than 100 children in the child-welfare system at any given time. Most of them typically arrive with meager belongings packed in grocery or garbage bags.

The 50-member congregation of Evanger Lutheran took that message to heart and applied through Thrivent Financial for funds to form an Action Team. Thrivent Action Teams can be established to address unmet needs in communities via fundraisers, service activities or educational events. If Thrivent approves their team’s mission, teammembers receive a $250 community-impact card to use as seed money for the project.

Once the group decided on duffle bags, the idea kept growing. Another member applied for an Action Team to include socks, underwear and pajamas (or sweatpants and tops) in the donation. When all was said and done, congregational members were able to donate a carload of new items, as well as $800 to use toward purchasing even more personal items for the kids. Thrivent provides T-shirts for these Action Team events, so those were also included.

Lynn Johnson, chair of the Evanger women’s group, tells how she was purchasing items when the cashier asked what all these items were for. When Johnson told her about the project, the cashier replied: “This idea makes my heart smile. I was in foster care growing up and would have loved to receive any of these items!” As Johnson walked away, the cashier said, “God bless you all for doing this!”

Members and friends of Evanger Lutheran Church, Kenmare, gave much more than material items: They gave hope to those children in foster care – one duffle bag at a time!

Note: If you, or a group you are involved with, would like to give NEW items to the foster care program or are thinking of becoming a foster parent, contact your local county social services. In Williams County, please contact Kathy Molland at: 701-774-6300.

If you are interested in helping kids who are in foster care and have special needs, please contact Ella Huwe at LSSND and ask about our Therapeutic Foster Care Program.

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